Getting back to Thomas Friedman's article, it is not so much the account of the issues at stake that struck me. It was more the position Friedman choose, as if one can freely sit on the bench and watch the parties argue. This reminded me of the BBC and CNN during the Gaza disengagement. Every morning I would watch the tv before heading of to a meeting with peace activists. From twelve different positions, CNN and BBC would report what was going on in Gaza. From the screen it looked like there was a lot of tension and a lot of places with heated conflicts. The suggestion was that it was dangerous to be there, with big chances of escalation. One morning when the Israeli army had just started their disengagement, I arrived at a workshop with both Israeli and Palestinians. Everybody was on the phone with relatives and friends to hear the latest news from Gaza. Bottom line was that it was pretty quiet with just here and there a bit of tension. Much less than expected. Two perspectives, one from the tv, the other from contacts on the ground with local people. Depending on which perspective you would choose, there would be more or less room to move, more or less hope for a solution.
It made me think of William Ury's experiences in peace negotiations that he spoke about at TED. He argues that the third side, us, the surrounding community, very often takes the role of bystanders, while we are or can be a very important party to tempt the other two parties to move towards each other. Acting as a bystander is not a neutral choice. That was what did not feel good about Friedmans article: the position of bystander or commentator without realizing that the actual role you play does effect the conflict.
Just standing by, may well make you partly responsible for the stalemate the parties are stuck in. Maybe even making it harder to move. That does not make it easy. It is a simple statement, but often so hard to carry out. Yet, I feel it is somewhere in this area: we should stop to sit back and just have an opinion, and start to take responsibility for the solution and look for ways to actively facilitate parties to make it easier to make a move towards a solution. We can make the difference, not just them.